Human Nature Comes to Rockefeller Center®

Human Nature Comes to Rockefeller Center®
Last Updated: Tue 25 Feb 2014

For seven weeks this spring, nine 16-to 20-foot-tall, human-shaped stone figures by Swiss-born, New York-based artist Ugo Rondinone, will transform Rockefeller Center, inhabiting the plaza between 49th and 50th Streets as if transported from another time. The work, Human Nature, will be free to the public and, is on view April 23 through June 7, 2013. Presented by Nespresso, the exhibition is organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer.

Human Nature is a stark contrast to its highly developed architectural surroundings in Midtown Manhattan. The irregular natural surfaces of the stone are left bare, while the human figure—perhaps the original artistic subject—is represented as a simple yet imposing composition, defined by its towering legs, massive torso, and boulder-like head. Archaic and enduring forms, these colossal figures will invite visitors to wander amongst their legs and touch their rough-hewn surfaces.

“We are proud to continue our long-standing tradition of presenting public art at Rockefeller Center with Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature,” said Tishman Speyer Co-Chief Executive Officers Jerry Speyer and Rob Speyer. “Rockefeller Center is New York City’s greatest public venue, a place where timeless architecture and art come together. The work of a brilliantly inventive artist like Ugo Rondinone will add perfectly to the Center’s artistic identity —particularly as Human Nature was originally inspired by the very plaza where it will now stand.”

“Mythic in scale and imagery, visceral in character and impact, Human Nature reconnects the contemporary world with our most ancient origins,” said Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator. “Conceived directly for Rockefeller Center, this installation launches an important new body of work for Ugo; we’re delighted that it will debut on center stage at this iconic New York City location.”

“The stone figure is the most archetypal representation of the human form; an elemental symbol of the human spirit, connected to the earth yet mythic in the imagination. The image of the figure belongs to nobody, is timeless, and universal,” said artist Ugo Rondinone.

“As a brand rooted in innovation and design, we are constantly seeking inspiration through art and culture from all over the world,” said Frederic Levy, President, Nespresso USA. “It is an honor to be the premier sponsor of Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature at Rockefeller Center and to be part of an event that so beautifully celebrates artistic expression and shares in our passion to inspire and be inspired.”

When the work is installed in April, the figures will populate the plaza where the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is displayed, the massive forms of their legs and shoulders forming post-and-lintel structures beneath and among which visitors will be able to walk.

To create these nine unique figures, the artist quarried massive bluestone slabs, leaving their surfaces as they were found: heavy and coarse, scored by quartz veins, and marked by wind, weather, and erosion. The stones were then rough-cut into blocks and stacked on top of each other to resemble the most recognizable features of the human form.

For more than 20 years, Rondinone has produced a strikingly diverse body of work that includes trance-inducing mandala paintings, figurative sculptures, large-scale landscape drawings, and immersive multi-channel video installations. In recent years he has increasingly turned his attention to public projects. His rainbow neon sign sculpture, Hell, Yes!, adorned the façade of the New Museum on the Bowery from its opening in November 2007 until December 2010.

Since 1998, Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer have collaborated to present internationally acclaimed works of art to the millions of people who visit and work at Rockefeller Center. Recent projects include Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror in 2006, which received the award for “Best Show in a Public Space” by the U.S. Art Critics Association, Jonathan Borofsky’s monumental sculpture Walking to the Sky in 2004, and Chris Burden’s What My Dad Gave Me in 2008, a 65-foot tall skyscraper made up entirely of construction parts . In 2003, Takashi Murakami’s Reversed Double Helix featured Mr. Pointy, his largest freestanding sculpture to date, two giant floating balloons suspended over the center, and mushroom seating. Nam June Paik’s Transmission broadcast a nightly laser display around the plaza in the summer of 2002. In 2001, Louise Bourgeois presented three massive bronze spiders, including the 30-foot-tall Maman, which was preceded in 2000 by Jeff Koons’ monumental topiary Puppy, which blossomed at the foot of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Human Nature is on view in Rockefeller Center Plaza in Midtown Manhattan between Fifth & Sixth Avenues and 49th and 50th Streets.

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Subway: F, D, B, V to 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center; N, R, W to 49th Street; 1 to 50th Street; 6 to 51st Street

Photo credit: Jason Wyche, Public Art Fund.